BLOG 12th October 2016

How (and why) to refresh a legacy brand

Guest blog post by Kim Mitchell from MoMA, New York.

Nineteen years ago, I interviewed for a job at The Museum of Modern Art as a publicist. I recall being curious about the communications challenges, as I came from a small regional museum where the struggle for press coverage and name recognition was a daily source of frustration. What obstacles could there be for one of the world’s renowned institutions of modern and contemporary art?

My supervisors were patient with my admittedly naïve question and described how being a leader made communications more crucial—MoMA had to be strategic and creative, transparent and responsible. We had to demonstrate best practices in communications as we did in all other aspects of the museum, and standards were high. When the eyes of the world are watching, you need to be “at the top of your game every day”, as my future boss said.

Those were prescient words then and still apply today, as the environment and audience for culture has exploded. MoMA has been a place of constant change since its founding in 1929. With a new building expansion underway, an ambitious program of exhibitions in Manhattan and Queens, as well as traveling exhibitions, partnerships, publications, digital programs and retail, the time felt right for clarification—to restate our purpose for today and for the future.

We began with research—internal and external, qualitative and quantitative—with many stakeholders, to uncover our challenges and opportunities. What did our diverse audiences want and how could we best deliver? Intense workshops and meetings followed with a senior group of staff, to distill our complex offering into a cohesive statement of purpose and how to bring that purpose to life. Many vigorous debates ensued! We assembled cross-disciplinary groups to research specific topics, assign priorities, and identify action steps for the short and long term.

In the end we rallied around the concept of engagement for everyone, with a commitment to renew our efforts to make MoMA, in all its various channels, a more welcoming and navigable place for inspiration and discovery. Those initial pilot projects are now rolling out, and early indicators show that the time spent on research and strategy will pay off for years to come.

More about Kim…

Kim Mitchell - The Museum of Modern Art, New YorkKim Mitchell is Chief Communications Officer at MoMA, New York and was a speaker at our Network Not Work events series.

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